you, and fun, too!
If you are among the many exercise enthusiasts who enjoy a rigorous workout at the
local gym, good for you! But if you are like most of us, you need a little push to discover the health
benefits -- and, yes, the fun -- of exercise.
Nearly everyone young and old alike can benefit from some level of exercise -- those
with chronic disease, and those without. For people with heart disease, exercise is particularly important.
In this section of the site, you will learn about the health benefits of exercise, as well as how to choose
the type of exercise that is just right for you -- and how to stick with it!
Before beginning any exercise program, it is important that you discuss it with your
doctor. Your doctor can give you additional guidance as to the types and amount of exercise that are
best for you.
Exercise is good for your
Your heart is a muscle. Like any other muscle, it needs to stay active. You should ask
your doctor what exercise program is right for you. For most people, moderate exercise for 20 minutes three
times a week helps to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
Regular exercise helps to raise the level of "good"
cholesterol (called HDL cholesterol). HDL helps remove
"bad cholesterol" (LDL cholesterol) from your arteries. A high level of LDL in the blood can cause fatty
buildup in your arteries, blocking the flow of blood and possibly leading to a heart
Exercise also can help lower your blood
pressure. If your blood pressure is too high, your risk
of heart disease, and possible heart attack or stroke, is much greater than if you keep your blood pressure
under control. Exercise can help you do this.
Exercise can also help you to lose weight. Being overweight can greatly increase your risk of heart disease, as
well, by raising your blood pressure and your cholesterol level. Losing weight through a sensible program of
exercise and diet can go a long way to keeping your heart as healthy as possible.
Calories Burned per
20 Minutes of Activity
Walking (normal pace)
Bicycling (5.5 mph)
Exercise has other health benefits, too
Exercise also strengthens the lungs, tones the muscles and keeps the joints in good
condition. And if you have diabetes, exercise is an important part of achieving good diabetes
Exercise helps you cope with stress
Almost everyone at one time or another experiences stress. The effects of stress are
the result of the hormone epinephrine ("adrenaline"), which is released into the blood, speeding up the heart
and increasing the blood pressure. The release of epinephrine can be triggered by anything we are worried
about or when any excess demands are made on us. Being subjected to stress on an occasional basis is not
usually harmful. Continual stress, however, will eventually have a detrimental effect on your health. Whether
you suffer because of stress depends on your reaction to it. Exercise is an excellent way of coping with
stress, and incorporating a program of regular exercise into your daily routine can help you deal with stress
more effectively. Here are some other good tips on how to cope with stress:
· Plan your
· Set realistic deadlines for
· Adapt to the
· Try not to "fight" the
· Balance your
· Put time aside each day to
· Take time off -- a change of
routine can help you to relax.
Choosing activities that are just right for you
Many types of physical activity are fun, but only regular, brisk exercise will improve
heart health. This is called "aerobic" exercise and includes jogging, swimming, jumping rope, and
cross-country skiing. Walking, biking, and dancing can also strengthen your heart, if you do them fast enough
and long enough. Choose an activity or groups of activities that you think you will enjoy and that will fit
most easily into your daily routine.
It is important to discuss your exercise program with your doctor before you begin.
This is especially important if you have heart disease or have had a heart attack, if you are older than age
50 and are not used to energetic activity, or if you have a family history of developing heart disease at a
young age. Your doctor can help tailor your exercise program to be the best "fit" for you.
Ready! Set! Go!
Now that you have decided on a physical activity or two that you think you might enjoy,
and you have discussed it with your doctor, you are ready to begin. You will achieve the most "gain" with the
least "pain" if you follow this simple advice:
Before each exercise session, devote a 5 minute period to stretching and slow exercise to give your body a chance
to "warm up." At the end of your workout, take another five minutes to "cool down" with a slower, less energetic
Listen to your body.
A certain amount of stiffness is normal at first. But if you hurt a joint or pull a muscle or tendon, stop
exercising for several days to avoid more serious injury. Most minor muscle and joint problems can be relieved by
rest and over-the-counter painkillers. (Note: First talk with your doctor about taking over-the-counter
Pay attention to warning
Exercise can strengthen your heart, but some types of activity may actually worsen existing heart problems. Warning
signals include sudden dizziness, cold sweat, paleness, fainting, or pain or pressure in your upper body just after
exercising. If you notice any of these signs, stop exercising and call your doctor immediately.
Staying with the program
Many people find that they are very good about exercising at first, but that after a
while they find reasons to stop. Here are some good tips that will make it easier for you to stay with your
Make exercise part of your daily routine. Try
to walk as often as possible instead of driving or using public transportation. Walking is a great form of
exercise and can be done safely by almost everyone. Use the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator.
Vacuuming, lawn mowing, gardening, and other household chores also increase your activity
Choose an activity or activities that you
enjoy. If jogging does not appeal to you, how about dancing, or
Do a variety of exercise activities instead of just
one. Variety will help you stick with it -- perhaps taking a long walk once or twice a week and
playing tennis with a friend on weekends.
A final word ...
Unless your doctor says you should stop exercising for health reasons, stay with your
exercise program. If you feel like giving up because you think you are not going as fast or as far as you
"should," set smaller, short-term goals for yourself, as well as grander ones. If you find yourself becoming
bored, try exercising with a friend. Or switch to another activity.